I love spring in Michigan. During the first warm days, it seems that all of us are happy and celebrating the arrival of the earth’s transition as it awakes from its long winter slumber. Delicate flowering buds suddenly appear on trees which looked dormant only days earlier and bright green shoots begin to push through the soil as they reach for the sunlight.
For those of us who love to cook, these signs of spring let us know that soon the farmers are beginning to show up at the markets with the first of many tender harvests.
Like precious gems, the first baby greens, sweet and succulent, are quickly snatched up by those of us who treasure the flavors and textures which only occur this time of year.
Certified Organic Farmer Don Cinzori of Cinzori Farms in Ceresco, Michigan, has become a good friend over the years. This Spring Equinox week, his booth is my first stop at the Royal Oak Farmers Market, where I quickly survey his stall which is full of baby greens and a variety of potatoes, radishes and onions from the root cellar.
He directs me toward his wheat grass and soil-grown sweet pea sprouts–a sign that Michigan pea season is almost here
There are three kinds of peas commonly found in the local markets: Sugar Snaps, Snow Peas and English Sweet Peas. Sadly, the English peas are grown less because it is inconvenient to shell them and it seems to take forever to get enough for one or two people. Thus, most of our experiences are canned, frozen or dried split peas. To add insult to injury, when we finely muster up the courage to shell some peas, they come from a grocery store and were harvested at least a week or two before.
To appreciate the magnificience of fresh peas, grow your own or buy them from a local farmer, like Don Cinzori (Know your farmer, know your food!), who has brought them ripe and fresh to market that morning. Cook as soon as possible, as the the sugars in peas turn into starch only hours after they have been picked.
This versatile legume can be prepared in so many ways that there is no possibility for boredom: fresh pea soups, in salads, sauteed with other vegetables, in whole grain pilafs and pulaos as well as in pasta dishes. The recipe below is a little different and highlights the green flavor of the peas with fresh Indian spices and rich flavor of Lacinato kale. Easy to prepare with simple spicing, a sure crowd pleaser!
Kale Wrapped English Peas
1 teaspoon coconut oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons ginger root, minced
1 teaspoon green chile, minced
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
½ cup sweet onions, minced
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons water
1 ¼ cups English peas, podded
¼ teaspoon sea salt
8 large Lacinato kale leaves, stemmed
½ teaspoon ume plum vinegar
In a small sauce pan, heat the coconut oil on medium high and cook the cumin seeds until they start to brown, Add ginger, chile, cilantro, onions and curry powder. Turn down to a simmer, add the lime juice, water, peas and sea salt. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring periodically then check to see if the peas are soft. When soft, mash the peas and onions. Separate into eight portions, place a portion on a kale leaf and roll until the entire leaf is wrapped around. Carefully place in a steamer and cook for 5 minutes, or until the kale is tender. Place 2 to 3 drops ume vinegar on top of each. Serve hot.